New York Times, “Gen. Walker’s Letter,” September 23, 1857

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    “Gen. Walker’s Letter,” New York Times, September 23, 1857, p. 4: 6.
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    New York Times
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    Gen. Walker's Letter
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    Patrick Sheahan, Dickinson College
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    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print.  Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.


    The Extension of Slavery into the Central and South American States.

    Correspondence of the New-York Times.

    WASHINGTON, Monday, Sept. 21, 1857.

    Whatever serves to develop the intentions of the South on the subject of Slavery deserves public attention. As an indication of Southern policy I cannot but regard the last published letter of WILLIAM WALKER in support of his scheme for reestablishing the institution in Nicaragua with profound interest. Disposed to deny him the possession of abilities requisite for the conduct of great affairs. I am yet forced to concede that this letter is a most skillfully framed appeal to the South, and that it is marked by great power of thought and correctness of argument. No publication has lately appeared presenting in so clear a manner the general idea of Southern expansion as a means of securing the permanent domination of the great Southern institution. It is worth as much for what it unwittingly suggests to the conservation of the South for its incitements to unlawful aggressions upon the territories and rights of the neighbors and friends of that section. Let us analyze Mr. WALKER’S statements and reasoning.

    WALKER admits that though he did not go to Central America to establish Slavery, that measure was the guiding star of his policy after he got there. He admits, too, that the decree issued with this object in view was his individual act, and that it was opposed by the whole body of native inhabitants. He asserts also that the measure was resorted to by him as part of a system for promoting “the increase of negro Slavery on this Continent,” which system he calls upon the South to support as the corner-stone of its safety. What he says about the benevolence of LAS CASA suggesting ------ situation of Negro for Indian Slavery, is only true in part. LAS CASA was a Dominican monk, celebrated as an Abolitionist. He opposed the Slavery imposed upon the Indians upon grounds hostile to any kind of Slavery. He was supported by his sect, but was bitterly reviled and threatened by the Franciscans, who were conservatives, and the Spanish settlers, who were owners of Indian slaves. In a public debate before CHARLES V., LAS CASAS contended against the Bishop of Darien that it was inhuman and irreligious to hold that any race had been designed by God for servitude. Why he consented to Negro Slavery does not clearly appear, but it seems that he regarded it as a temporary expedient necessary for the liberation of his Indians, of whom he had been appointed by ZIMENES “Protector.”

    WALKER proves by a methodical and consistent statement the existence of a combination among all the people of Spanish American, from the Rio Grande to Chili, “for the purpose of excluding Slavery forever from the territories now occupied by them.” He then goes on to show that England has joined this combination, and that she furnished the Costa Ricans arms to aid them in defense of their country against him and his filibusters. He notices that the new Mexican Constitution has a clause forbidding the making of any treaty for the extradition of fugitive slaves, and sums up upon the testimony thus:

    “In fact, you have but to read the journals of the Spanish-American Republics from Mexico to Chili to be satisfied of the enmity – active as well as passive – to the people and institutions of the Southern States.”

    I do not see how there can be any doubt of the correctness of this conclusion. All the people threatened by the South with invasion and subjugation have combined to defend themselves. WALKER then asks the people of the South whether they intend to submit to hits: whether they will be hemmed in on the South as on the North; whether they will surrender the right of carrying their slaves into other countries, and reducing to servitude the people who now inhabit those countries? These are momentous questions, and WALKER is quite right in asking the South to pause now and consider them. They may be stated, however, in another form, as thus: Have not the people of Spanish-America a right to be free? Have they not a right to resist invasion if they suspect “the South,” which is their North, of an intention to seize their several countries and enslave their free citizens, is it not their duty to combine for their defense! And if they did not so combine, would not all mankind enounce them as dolts and cowards?

    No man of common sense, and especially no one who could write such a letter as this which I am commenting upon, can affect to believe that “the South” has any other or better right to move on further south for purpose of conquest and propagandism than the North. Now, if the South has a mission to seize Mexico, the West Indies, Central America, Venezuela, the Guianas, new-Granada, Peru and Chili, for the purpose of fixing therein African Slavery forever, which WALKER avows, by implication, to be his design, who can deny to the Free States of this Union the right to move on after the South, to occupy the present Slave States, and the extirpate the peculiar institution of African Slavery forever! Let it be borne in mind that while the South claims the right to extend over all America an institution which she declares to be “peculiar,” the institutions of the North are not peculiar, but are in harmony with those of the Christian and civilized world.

    But directly after making this important disclosure, Mr. WALKER proceeds to relieve his mind by this portentous admonition:

    If the South is desirous of imitating the gloomy grandeur of the Eschylian Prometheus, she has but to lie supine a little while longer, and force and power will bind her to the rock, and the vulture will descend to tear the liver from her body. In her agony and grief she may console herself with the idea that she suffers a willing sacrifice.

    Is this a confession, or what is it? Does Mr. WALKER mean to say that Slavery is a vulture which is tearing out the liver from the body of the South? This is exactly what he means. He tells the people of the South that Slavery is a vulture that is feeding upon their hearts; but they must not kill the vulture, they must only enlarge the area of the rock, and allow the obscene [volecres?] to feed away at its leisure.

    The point of a powerful combination already formed to resist the ambition and rapacity of the South, is certainly very suggestive of the necessity of caution in increasing the strength of this combination. It is the most overwhelming argument for the dependence of the South upon the Federal Union that I have ever heard. Southern conservatives will at once perceive that when the secessionists and incendiaries of the Jefferson and Toombs and Keitt school get the upper hand of them, and set up their exclusive Slave Empire, the North, above Mason and Dixon’s, must form an offensive and defensive alliance with tropical America to limit and, if need be, to cripple the new aggressive power forever. And if Great Britain is now hostile to the South, and is forming combinations against her expansion, what would be her policy after the principle of territorial aggression had been inaugurated in a new government informed by no other motive?

    It is said that Mr. JENKINS, to whom Mr. WALKER addresses his manifesto, will repudiate the plan developed. This is very likely. Mr. JENKINS is a so-called conservative, who in 1852 was nominated for Vice President on the ticket which had Mr. WEBSTER’S name at its head. As a man of sense, who knows the real design, and the true wants of the South, he cannot assume any responsibility for the sentiments and recommendations of his correspondent.


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